Good progress, but………

The Australian Government is starting to address the silicosis risk associated with engineered stone. The Health Minister, Greg Hunt, has said in a media release on January 23 2020 that the government will accept all five recommendations of the interim advice of the National Dust Disease Taskforce. However, some of these seem half-hearted and some actions will take a long time, which does not necessarily help those workers currently at risk.

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2020 OHS plans for Queensland mines

Open cut rock quarry on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. Source: zstockphotos

The Queensland Government’s “Safety Reset” of its mining industry was a remarkable achievement in 2019. The government intends to be equally active in occupational health and safety (OHS) in 2020, according to a media release dated 18 January 2020. Below are its “current and upcoming health and safety reforms”:

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OHS needs to ride the ESG wave

The current Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) movement can be seen as the latest iteration of companies and business owners reflecting on the broader purposes of running a business.  An earlier manifestation of this reflection was Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).  ESG and CSR are similar perspectives from different times but with a fundamental continuity.

Occupational health and safety (OHS) is integral to CSR/ESG/Sustainability considerations but is often overlooked or considered as a business add-on, a situation that has been allowed to persist by the OHS profession, Regulators and others over many decades.

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Thinking beyond one’s role on OHS

“My approach tends to be revolutionary.”

A major criticism of the Australian Prime Minister’s handling of the current bushfire disaster in South-east Australia is that he was reluctant to engage in the fire fighting or relief effort. Scott Morrison’s reason was valid – firefighting responsibilities sit with the States and Territories. The Federal Government has no direct role in this.

Australian politics, and progress, continues to be hampered by the Constitutional demarcation of National and States rights and obligations, but Morrison missed the point. One does not have to be directly involved in an event to show support and leadership, and leadership can be effective in a secondary, support role. This is equally the case for occupational health and safety (OHS).

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Brexit, Boris and OHS

One reader has asked about the occupational health and safety (OHS) impacts of Brexit. This article looks specifically at The Conservative and Unionist Party Manifesto to identify potential OHS-related actions and intentions. The relevance for Australian readers is that UK and Australian politics frequently feed off each other.

The United Kingdom’s OHS laws have been greatly affected during the country’s membership of the European Union (EU). This has been seen as a nuisance by some but some EU safety Directives, such as Seveso 1, 2 & 3, have assisted many countries in establishing or strengthening their own regulations on specific hazards. EU safety rules seem amazingly complex for someone who has no involvement with them but then any economic community of over two dozen countries can seem baffling to an OHS writer who operates from an island with a small population in the Southern Hemisphere.

What can be said is that the UK will need to accommodate the “best” of the EU OHS laws in their own legislative structure, if it has not already. It is unlikely the UK will remove OHS rules that serve a positive, i.e. harm prevention, purpose unless there is a very good reason. But sometimes it seems that good reasons are not required, only political reasons.

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